How did you learn?

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I have only paddled rivers with really experienced people a couple of times. It felt like dancing.
Exactly. There is grace and beauty dancing with the river and the boat and a partner you are in tune with.
 
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I taught myself as a kid. I knew no one who canoed, so I just did things as they felt correct, mostly wrong. I tripped green in the Everglades and was lucky to live through it, but I didn’t know at the time. Eventually, I learned better, but by no means an expert. I get from point A to point B relatively well, and I’ve learned a lot late in life. I’d love to help a child in similar circumstances, but haven’t found an opportunity.
 
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My Dad bought an old livery canoe (no name, aluminum, about two tons) when I was a kid. He taught me what he could, and was quite patient when he wanted to fish, but let me “steer.” He got pushed into the bank and snags a lot, and more so when the wind was doing anything. But he was patient, mostly, and I learned. Then I started taking some guided trips, and the guides could offer suggestions—many were ACA certified, and actually offered good instruction. A week or two ago, I did a guided canoe trip near Big Bend National Park. Guided trips are nice. I travel alone, and this way I don’t need worry about shuttles or loading and unloading canoes, and you usually get to do a reasonable distance, etc.. But it did, once again, bring home the point that sterning a canoe is not apparently intuitive or easy. This was at least the third time that I have (stupidly) listened to the person I was paired with, who had been on numerous canoeing adventures. Since he had much experience, I asked if he wanted the stern. He gave a resounding, “Yes.” I will never, ever, ever do that again. I will camp in the stern. I will beat anyone who comes close with the paddle. I may not win, but I’ll go down swinging. We were on the Rio Grand, and my sternsman plowed me into the clay bank of Mexico and then the US and then Mexico and then the US. I have felt the shudder of a boat moseying along, and then STOPPED instantly, me in the brushy overhang. I remember approaching a bend, and thinking, “why isn’t he turning?” That’s when I heard the tell tale crinkle of a granola bar being opened (with both hands). Good grief. It’s harder to steer from the bow, but I usually can. That experience will make it so much easier when I get to the stern.

Teddy Roosevelt went up San Juan Hill. Pringles shall take the stern!

We weren’t the worst canoe, though. One couple went through the second rapid/tight spot backwards. It was delightful to watch them, paddles hovering above the water, heads on swivels, float quickly through the tight spot, and end by thunking stern first, into the clay bank of Mexico. Now that I think about it, they were the ones that, when we first put in, asked which way we were going. Downstream?
 
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Sounds like you got an experience. They say experience is what you got when you didn’t get what you wanted!
 
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I learned to canoe in high school in the late 1960s. My high school was beside a river and the school had a canoe livery on the river with a lot of Grumman Canoes. We learned to canoe in gym class and canoed everyday for about a month or longer (weather permitting) in the fall. After we learned some basic strokes and were comfortable in the canoes, then we were allowed to have water battles with the canoes. I probably learned more about balance in a canoe from those water battles than anything else. After I graduated from high school in 1969 and went to college, my college had a canoe livery on the same river about 10 miles downstream. So I signed up for the canoe class. We weren't allowed to have water battles in college. I bought my first canoe in 1975..
 
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Guess I taught myself as a kid. Even running rapids, learning to read the river through experience.

Paddling isn’t rocket surgery so with experience you learn what works, what feels right, etc. It was only recently that I started watching YouTube and reading on this topic and learned these strokes had names and some people take this this stuff way more serious than I do.

I’ve never endeavored to get a phd in paddling.
 
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